Hall, Ellery A - portraits of Root Family from Uxbridge

These three miniatures were offered at auction as three separate lots. Thus there was a risk that the three related sitters from one family would be separated forever.

It was fortunate that the hammer prices were not too high and so it was possible to acquire all three miniatures for the collection.

They represent an excellent example of how a forgotten family can be "brought back to life" just from their bare names, to such an extent one can see how they fitted into the social fabric of their times.

Visitors to this site may like to read a little essay about the portraits titled "A Forgotten Family Story" at View before proceeding to read the description below.

The miniatures are all signed on the right "E A Hall" as shown in the two examples, and the cases all engraved on the rear with the initials and name of the sitter; the man "Charles Arthur Root - Dec 25, 1925", the older lady "Jane Wheelock Root - Dec 25, 1925" and the younger lady "Deberah (sic - one wonders why a replacement with the correct spelling, Deborah, was not requested) Root - Dec 25, 1927". Thus it appears they were painted as Christmas presents.

To date a closer identification of the artist has not been possible, although it is possible he/she is related to E A Hall & Co of Greenfield, MA. Conversely, clear identification of the sitters and some detective work has made it possible to learn much about the family.

Charles Arthur Root (11 Sep 1874-1932) married Jane Frances Wheelock (24 Sep 1872-1954) around 1898 and various Internet references strongly link the family to Uxbridge, MA. Charles and Jane had three children, Dorothy, Deborah (shown here), and Charles Jr.

As these three miniatures are all dated December 25, it seems fairly certain that elsewhere in the world, there are miniatures of the other two children, Dorothy Root and Charles Root Jr, also dated December 25.

Charles Arthur Root Sr was the son of Charles B J Root (1846-?) and the grandson of Hezekiah Root (6 Feb 1803-?) and his second wife Maria Jenks who were married 15 Dec 1831. Hezekiah and his family were all involved in the grocery and dry goods business, although in 1850 Hezekiah had been a farmer.

The Roote family can trace their name back to before their earliest arrival in America, Thomas Roote who was born in Northampton England in 1605 and was married in Hartford CT in 1638. Much information being contained within "The Root Family" by J P Root, published in 1870.

Jane Frances Wheelock Root is referred to in the 1880 census as Jennie F Wheelock and also in the 1969 book by Walter W Wheelock "The Wheelock Family in America, 1637-1969", where she is referred to as Jennie Frances Wheelock". She had the DAR ID Number: 23432 Her DAR lineage was;
Descendant of Lieut. Simeon Wheelock and of Capt. Edward Seagrave.
Being daughter of Charles Edwin Wheelock (1842-1915) and Jane Frances Sprague (1847-1915), his wife.
Granddaughter of Charles Augustus Wheelock (1812-1895) and Nancy Seagrave (1815-1911), his wife.
Gr.-granddaughter of Jerry Wheelock (1784-1861) and Sukey Day, his wife; Bezaleel Seagrave and Lucy Taft, his wife.
Gr.-gr.-granddaughter of Simeon Wheelock (1741-1747) and Deborah Thayer, his wife; John Seagrave and Sarah Dorrington, his wife.
Gr.-gr.-gr.-granddaughter of Edward Seagrave and Lois White, his wife.
Edward Seagrave, (1722-93), commanded a company of militia, 1775-78. As he was the oldest captain in the regiment and unable to undergo further military service he resigned his commission, 1779. He was born in England; died in Uxbridge, Mass.

The main significance of the Root family was as the owner of woollen mills, including Uxbridge Worsted Co, in partnership with Louis Bachman. It was in 1907 that Louis Bachmann of New York City and Uxbridge's Charles Arthur Root organized a small woolen and worsted plant on the site of the Old Scott's Mill. Later they bought the Capron Mill whuch had made textiles for military uniforms during the Civil War and did so for subsequent conflicts.

Half a century later, the Uxbridge Worsted Co. boasted 13 plants in four states, with 6,000 workers producing enough fabric annually for six million garments. The group having also bought the Rivulet, and Davis and Brown Mills.

The Root family did have a philanthropic side; one reference to the family is for the Unitarian Church at Uxbridge, where it is noted "The Hook-Hastings electric organ was installed in 1926, given by Mr. and Mrs. Charles A. Root in memory of her father, the Hon. Charles A. Wheelock", see Church History - Unitarian Congregation of Mendon &; Uxbridge ...

Another reference is to the Coronet John Farnum House on Mendon Street near the Mumford River falls. Farnum and his wife, Mary Tyler of Mendon, built the house there in 1715, before Uxbridge became its own town. It remained a private residence until 1926, when the house was purchased and restored by the owners of the Uxbridge Worsted Co mill across the street. Today, the town-owned building serves as headquarters for the private Uxbridge Historical Society, see Town Hall holds the ghosts - Milford, MA - The Milford Daily News

In 1920 Charles Root also part owned the Uxbridge Inn in Uxbridge, originally built as the Hotel Windsor. The wide veranda on the front was a reviewing stand for parades and ceremonial events. Through the years, it was a popular spot for travellers whether arriving by horse-drawn coach, train, or automobile. The woollen mills attracted many European visitors to the inn.

In 1924 Uxbridge Worsted Co helped to establish the Blackstone Valley Industrial League which enabled baseball competition between the various mills. This is regarded by some historians as part of a very paternalistic management style, see baseballBVLeague In 1928 Charles A Root was a Republican Delegate from Massachusetts to the Republican National Convention.

Charles Root seems to have been a hard businessman, particularly during the Great Depression when unemployment in larger Rhode Island mill communities such as Pawtucket and Woonsocket ran as high as fifty percent. Figures for Blackstone Valley towns in both Massachusetts and Rhode Island were much lower but misleading because once unemployed, a worker and his family were evicted from company housing and, quite literally, the community as well.

In January 1932 workers launched a bitter strike at five mills belonging to the Uxbridge Worsted Company, protesting a reduction in wages. The workers lost their strike when owner Charles Root threatened to close the mills permanently. Perhaps due to the stress of this strike and the Great Depression Charles Root Sr died in 1932, aged 67. In 1934 workers at Rockdale, Uxbridge Worsted Company and other Blackstone Valley mills joined a national strike by textile workers from Maine to Georgia for recognition of the Textile Workers Union.

Rockdale employees eventually returned to work, but only after the company sold workers' homes to break the union. Similar threats were made by employers elsewhere in a coldly calculated strategy designed to deliver an irrevocable message to workers who might consider further protest. For workers this strike and its results became the symbol of paternalism's end in the Blackstone Valley. Employers throughout the region pointed to it as an example of the evils of unionism and their reaction successfully forestalled union organization for another fifteen years in most Massachusetts Blackstone mills.

After Mr Root's death in 1932 the name changed to Bachman-Uxbridge Worsted Corporation and operated as such until it was sold to Emile Bernat & Sons, Inc in 1962.

Census information provides more information about the family. In 1910 Charles and Jane Root lived with their three children, Dorothy 10, Deborah 6, and Charles Jr 3 in Uxbridge close to Jane's parents Charles and Jane Wheelock and their family. In the 1930 census, the Root family still lived in Uxbridge; Arthur C Root aged 55, Jane W Root aged 57, Deborah Root aged 26 and Charles A Root Jr aged 23. They had three servants and disclosed assets of $25,000.

Charles Arthur Root Jr (6 Apr 1907-25 Nov 1988) married Helen Sybil Rixford (6 May 1908-30 Jun 1987) of Woonsocket, RI on May 1, 1930 at Uxbridge, MA. Helen was the daughter of the then postmaster at Woonsocket, Frank A Rixford who had risen from a mail clerk in 1910.

The 1930 census shows Dorothy E Root (Jul 15, 1899-?) married to Howard John Walter (10 Sep 1900-1962) from the Walters brewing family of Pueblo, CO, see TABLE OF CONTENTS

Dorothy may have met him at Cornell University as his Draft Registration Card shows him enrolled there in 1918. In 1924 Howard applied for a passport for himself and Dorothy stating they would be married on 2 Jun 1924. They were intending to sail on the "President Harding" leaving on Jun 24, to Great Britain, France, Holland, Belgium and Germany, obviously on their honeymoon. This being their passport photographs.

Thus Dorothy's husband Harold John Walterhad came to Uxbridge and then took over the running of the Uxbridge Worsted Co when her father died in 1932.
They had one daughter Mary Jane Walter, (Apr 1927-?) and a second daughter Dorothy Deborah Walter (2 Jun 1931-16 Jul 2003), see Dorothy Deborah "Dee_Dee" WALTER According to immigration records, the Walters lived at 178 Mendon St, Uxbridge, later at 220 Mendon St, and travelled extensively. However, from reviewing Google maps it seems Mendon street numbering may now be different.

Interestingly, Uxbridge Worsted Co was internationally known for the development of "Uxbridge Blue" or "Uxbridge 1683", or "Air Force shade 84 blue", the patented color for uniforms worn by the United States Air Force. For background on this see Transitional Period Dye houses straddled the river so kettles of used dyes could be dumped directly into the water. Observers say the river ran blue when the kettles were emptied. Uxbridge Worsted Co. also designed uniforms for the Nurses Corp. They received a personal letter of thanks from President Roosevelt for their help in the war effort.

In 1953 business was booming as evidenced by a story in Time Magazine in Aug 23, 1953, see
The Pride of Uxbridge - TIME when the factories were working three shifts a day, six days a week and employees agreed to postpone their annual vacations. Presumably this was a flow on boom from making uniforms for the Korean War, but see also Harold Walter - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Around this time, or perhaps the late 1940's, Bachmann Uxbridge Worsted Corporation produced this elaborate display piece to introduce their new nylon fortified wool fabric. The material was called Concertones, and their first appearance was called the Concertones Carnival. The carnival was headed by a circus wagon, all made of wood, black, and gold raised lettering on paper, with fancy gold painted trim. It is affixed to a black wood base. Inside is a ten page booklet, all with showy circus illustrations, describing the benefits of their new fabric.

Shortly thereafter, on Mar 29 1954, Time magazine reported; "American Woolen Co. will ask its stockholders to approve a merger with Bachmann Uxbridge Worsted Corp. As a combined operation, troubled American Woolen (1953 sales, $73,494,160; net loss, $9,476,981) and Bachmann Uxbridge (1953 sales, $52,609,000; profit, $272,000) would be by far the biggest woolen manufacturer in the country. Textron, Inc., which wants American Woolen to merge with it, and claims to own almost 4% of American Woolen's stock, plans to fight the merger," see TIME CLOCK - TIME

So despite the 1953 acolades, only ten years later, in 1964 the textile and shoe industries in America were in severe recession due to imports. Bachman-Uxbridge Worsted Co (as it was named by now) had shed 800 jobs due to mill closures, just one of dozens of mills and thousands of jobs lost, see Bates College: Ladd Library: Muskie Archives & Special Collections ... Harold Walker had died in 1962, after running the business for 30 years and that was probably a trigger for the company being sold to the Bernat Corporation.

During the 1970s, many mills were closed and the looms were silent for the first time in 200 years. The rivers had become a dumping ground for chemical dye vats. The Blackstone River lost its title as "America's hardest working river" and became one of its most polluted. The Uxbridge center was largely boarded up and abandoned.

The ultimate insult, was in 2007 when the mill building, then called the Bernat Mill was destroyed in a fire. In the early morning of July 21, 2007, the fire erupted at the historic mill, devastating the complex on Mendon and Depot Street. A total of 600 firefighters, from 66 communities, battled the blaze, but the complex was nearly totally destroyed. At the time of the fire, the 400,000 square feet structure, had ceased operating as a mill and had been converted into space containing 65 small businesses. The business losses following the fire were estimated in the millions of dollars and between 300-500 people lost their jobs.

There is a video of the fire available at YouTube - bernat mill fire uxbridge massachusetts For current information, see Help Uxbridge Recovery Resources

Michelle Fontaine also has some more interesting information and videos about the fire on her website at Show, images and article

Despite the later industry problems, the Root family had achieved and retained substantial wealth. When the Charles Root estate was subdivided in 2001, 21 acres of floodplain forest consisting of predominantly red maple, silver maple, and sycamore trees were gifted to the Blackstone River and Canal Heritage State Park which now extends to 1000 acres in total.

Deborah Root (Oct 27 1903-Mar 25, 2000) married Edward Addis Robertson (Sep 21, 1900-1950) a lawyer born in Washington. In the 1930 census, Edward appears to have been living in Flushing NY, with his mother Helena Addis Robertson (16 Sep 1868-?), then a widow living in her home worth $30,000 and his cousin Laura M Healy, a stenographer. Judging from Helena's passport application, it appears Edward's father was also named Edward Robertson and died in South Africa in April 1900, presumably just before Edward was born.

Deborah had graduated from Dana Hall School in Wellesley and moved to Old Brookville, NY, after her marriage, which was probably in July 1934. Returning to Worcester in 1995, when she moved to Washburn House. A skilled horsewoman and participated in fox hunts. She was named for, and a direct descendant of, Deborah Wheelock; whose family members were among the early settlers of Uxbridge. She was a member of the Deborah Wheelock Chapter, of the DAR in Uxbrdge.

Deborah died in Worcester in 2000 aged 96, after 50 years as a widow and appears not to have had any children, being survived by nieces and nephews. As she was the last of her siblings and parents to die, it seems that must have been the trigger for the winding up of the Charles Root estate and the gifting of the 21 acres to the park.

It is likely that a previous owner of these three miniatures acquired them at the estate sale of Deborah Root Robertson. Presumable the nieces and nephews who inherited the estate did not want to keep the miniatures.

Apart from the Root family, noteworthy among early Uxbridge settlers was Lydia Taft, a widow, who was allowed to vote in her deceased husband's place in an official Uxbridge town meeting in 1756. She is reported to be the first recorded legal woman voter in the United States. The Taft family in Uxbridge included the grandfather of President William Howard Taft. 1304, 1305, 1306

Later - A kind visitor has sent me images of another miniature by this artist which is particularly appreciated, as it shows the full name of the artist Ellery A Hall of Westminster Street, Providence Rhode Island. Until receiving this, I did not know his first name, nor his address. The sitter is Isabel M Beattie.

1 comment:

betsyblueberry said...

As an archivist in the Uxbridge Public Library this collection is especially dear to me. I have quite a bit of history on this family and so enjoyable to see the pictures. Thank you.